A friend called tonight. She was distressed. She had gone to confession to a priest at the Cathedral. For her penance, the priest told her to "go to a talk" in the St. Therese Chapel on Monday night.
My friend did not respond. She knew what the talk was. She had already spent a few years in the Neocatechumenal Way and had left, and not without some pain. She didn't want to go to the "talk".
When she didn't answer, the priest asked her if that was "okay". Never having been presented with such a "penance" before and fearing that she would not receive absolution if she did not consent, she replied: "I am at your mercy".
The priest then told her to consider the penance (attending the talk) "a mercy from me to you." He then absolved her.
My friend called because she was disturbed. She felt that her sins would not be forgiven if she did not go to the talk.
This isn't the first time I've heard this, and the same scenario was posted elsewhere as a comment on this blog, but it was the first time I heard it first hand from someone I know.
She decided to go to confession tomorrow to another priest, and this time, not a neo.
Aside from the coercion to attend the neocatechumenal meeting, a coercion in the context of a confession, which is already a matter for grave concern, the priest tells her that this penance is a MERCY! And a mercy from him personally.
I honestly do not know how to conclude this post without an obscenity. So I'll just conclude. But WTF?